She thought he would be very glad to see her, and to hear what a long way she had come to find him, and to hear how sad they had all been at home when he did not come back. Oh, it was joy mingled with fear.
They had now reached the stairs, where a little lamp was burning on a shelf. There stood the tame sweetheart, twisting and turning her head to look at Gerda, who made a curtsy, as grandmother had taught her.
'My betrothed has spoken so charmingly to me about you, my little miss!' she said; 'your life, "Vita," as it is called, is most touch- ing! If you will take the lamp, I will go on in front. We shall take the straight road here, and we shall meet no one.'
'It seems to me that some one is coming behind us,' said Gerda, as she fancied something rushed past her, throwing a shadow on the walls; horses with flowing manes and slender legs; huntsmen, ladies and gentlemen on horseback.
'Oh, those are only the dreams!' said the crow; 'they come to take the thoughts of the noble ladies and gentlemen out hunting. That's a good thing, for you will be able to see them all the better in bed. But don't forget, when you are taken into favour, to show a grateful spirit.'
'Now, there's no need to talk about that,' said the crow from the woods.
They came now into the first apartment; it was hung with rose- coloured satin embroidered with flowers. Here again the dreams overtook them, but they flitted by so quickly that Gerda could not distinguish them. The apartments became one more beautiful than the other; they were enough to bewilder anybody. They now reached the bedroom. The ceiling was like a great palm with crystal leaves, and in the middle of the room two beds, each like a lily hung from a golden stem. One was white, and in it lay the Princess; the other was red, and there lay he whom Gerda had come to seek—little Kay! She bent aside one of the crimson leaves, and she saw a little brown neck. It was Kay. She called his name aloud, and held the lamp close to him. Again the dreams rushed through the room on horseback—he awoke, turned his head—and it was not little Kay.
It was only the Prince's neck which was like his; but he was young and handsome. The Princess peeped out of her lily-white bed, and